A new study may provide possible explanations about cocaine use and destructive decisions. The study was performed by researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and it showed what happens in the brain when cocaine use occurs. The research study was covered by the Los Angeles Times, and published in the Journal of Neuroscience. What the researchers discovered was that the chronic use of cocaine alters the brain circuits which reinforce learning from the mistakes previously made. The electrical activity of the brain in the area that is linked to error management with reward prediction was monitored. When things go well and exceed expectations more dopamine is released and absorbed in the brain, and when the results do not meet expectations then less dopamine is absorbed and released.
The latest research study into cocaine use and destructive decisions involved 75 individuals. Some of the participants used cocaine while others did not. The participants were divided into 3 groups. One group did not use cocaine at all, one group admitted cocaine use but tested negative for the drug in the 72 hours prior to the study, and the third group tested positive for recent cocaine use. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York lead study researcher Muhammad Parvaz said “This study shows that individuals with substance use disorder have difficulty computing the difference between expected versus unexpected outcomes, which is critical for learning and future decision making. This impairment might underlie disadvantageous decision making in these individuals.”